Monday, July 25, 2011

West Virginia Writers' Workshop

What a pleasure to spend the weekend in charming Morgantown with other people who have fallen in love with writing and reading. I recommend this retreat, packed full with readings, craft talks and workshops. The faculty - Denise Duhamel, James Harms, Robert Olmstead and Mark Brazaitis - were terrific, and I enjoyed meeting my fellow participants. My workshop group was facilitated by Jim Harms. He engaged each of us on our own level, offering excellent revision suggestions, and giving us interesting and useful information about other writers and poems, history and movements, and devices and structures. In just a few days we were a little community. It's amazing how great it is to pack up and go someplace and think and talk about writing all day, with other people who think and feel the same way. And to come home with a heap of new books.
Here a link to West Virginia Writers' Workshop

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New Interview Up at Best American Poetry blog

Here's a link to an interview with Kattywompus Press editor Sammy Greenspan, published at Best American Poetry blog. I love the raucous fecundity in Sammy's answers. As an editor, she's serious and focused. I enjoyed the opportunity to ask her these questions.

More Book Love

A standing ovation for each of the three books I've recently finished.

Poetry first. Morton Marcus's The Dark Figure in the Doorway: Last Poems, published in Buffalo by White Pine Press, is old man poetry (one of my favorite genres). You know the challenge there - to keep the wisdom fresh and to use a light touch. Marcus does these things with flourish, and humor, and memorable imagery. Here is a poem from Section III: All We Can Do:


At dusk, the rocks, huddled in hoods, rise from their knees and scurry forward. Rocks lean toward the dark; it is their preference. All day kicked by hooves, crushed by wheels, they hold fields in place, anchor our shadows. Now they hurry off to their own lives.

Even the trees rise, like ballerinas in heavy coats, and stride on tiptoe to their lovers' homes, like the farmhouse in the valley where the little boy taps on the window as they pass.

Waiting for Snow in Havana is one of the best memoirs I've read. Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 Cuban children put on planes by themselves and sent to the U.S. shortly after Castro's revolution. Seeing unfolding events from the point of view of a privileged boy is an intriguing point of view. Eire's quirky family (is that redundant?) makes for terrific character development. The real violence of the revolution is like thriller movie music in the background, and as the neighborhood boys try out on each other various torture techniques they learn from American Westerns, we know how much is at stake.

I'm almost done with Al Gore's The Assault on Reason. Gore has been mocked by the power brokers he challenges, but this doesn't diminish his powerful and insightful message. In our national dialogue, we are often at a loss for specific information, and cause and effect. We should all read this book. Agree or not with Gore on how to proceed, we should have the information in this book to inform the conversation.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Conventional wisdom tells us that we don't appreciate what we don't pay for. But I don't buy it. When I was going through a particularly difficult stretch, my friend told me that I would find gifts under the waterfall. She was right. I'm still finding them.
I have a yard now, and one of the things I love about that is composting. It kills me to see cores and peels going into the landfill. This takes them out of the nutrient stream; we know that agribusiness doesn't put nutrients back into soil, but feeds plants with fertilizer salts only to make them grow. Our fruits and vegetables are much less nutritious than they should be. Additionally, as I learned from my brother, rotting vegetation in a landfill produces methane gas, which contributes to climate change.
I have two compost bins, and it takes about a year to fill one, and another year until the layers of kitchen and garden scraps are richly broken down and ready to go into the gardens. I grow only flowers, but my hope is that one day we'll all save up our coffee grounds and egg shells for the local organic farm or community garden.
This spring I filled a pot halfway with compost and topped it off with soil and peat moss. I planted the free flowers that came with some purchases at my favorite greenhouse. The flowers are lovely and vibrant. A few weeks later, one side of the pot popped with cucumber vines. They must be stowaways from the compost - that happens sometimes. But I think it's great. There are a dozen or so blossoms already. Fresh cucumbers will be a nice addition to my CSA shares.